Saturday, December 17, 2016

Managing Across Departments

Some very innovative ideas come out of departments. In my experience, however, those departments are usually marshaling their own resources and getting the best from their own team.

A far more challenging task is to achieve progress as an internal consultant - a missionary if you will - who has to work across the lines of multiple departments. Human Resources professionals can attest to that. They have to administer programs across the organization. As such, they are an insider/outsider who is frequently regarded with greater suspicion by departments than would be the case with an external consultant.

I've long joked that the HR job is threefold - Clerk, Consultant, and Cop - and that the best HR professionals fall mainly in the consultant slot.. But is there a better way to describe that department's role? Would any of the following be more accurate?

  • Evangelist?
  • Emergency Room Nurse or Physician?
  • Firefighter?
  • Farmer?
  • Troubleshooter?
  • Coordinator?
  • Other?


Vince Dunn said...

Interesting that this observation follows your quote from Clay Shirky wherein he states that "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." I work in HR and all you said is so very true. I love the multi-discipline aspect of the work and have for more years than I will admit to. However, it is often a battle to keep HR from creating processes and "solutions" that are mainly benefiting HR. Thanks, as always, for the keen observation about working across departments. It makes life all the more interesting.

Michael Wade said...


Thanks for your kind comments. As you are well aware, HR often engages in a form of shuttle-diplomacy with a variety of departments and personalities. Many of them would like HR to go away, at least until they get into trouble and then HR can become their new best friend.

Your observation about the battle to keep HR from creating "solutions" that benefit HR is right on target. I deal with many excellent HR professionals but some places seem to regard the employees as nuisances or adversaries.